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Day 75: May 13, 2024

The Witness: Live Update | Day 75 of the Jimmy Lai Trial: Addressing Defense’s Request to Re-summon Cheung Kim-hung

Next Digital founder Jimmy Lai and three associated companies of Apple Daily are charged with “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces” among other offenses. The trial entered its 75th day on Monday (13th) at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court). Witness for the prosecution, Royston Chow Tat-kuen, COO and former CFO of Next Digital, completed his testimony last Friday (10th). On the same day, the prosecution finished reading the written statement of expert witness, Wang Guiguo, professor at City University of Hong Kong School of Law.

Previously, the defense applied to re-summon “accomplice witness” former CEO of Next Digital, Cheung Kim-hung, to question him about the content on the Slack work platform. On Monday (13th), the prosecution requested defense lawyer Johnny Ho to testify on this matter. Ho confirmed that he has been representing Lai since his arrest on August 10, 2020, is familiar with the case details, and acknowledged that the defense had obtained statements from Cheung, Chan Pui-man, and Yeung Ching-kee in December of the following year. However, Cheung first mentioned the Slack work platform during questioning in January this year.

The case is presided over by High Court judges designated under the National Security Law: Esther Toh Lye-ping, Susana Maria D’Almada Remedios, and Alex Lee Wan-tang. The prosecution team includes Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Anthony Chau Tin-hang, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Ivan Cheung Cheuk-kan, and Senior Public Prosecutor Crystal Chan Wing-sum; Jimmy Lai is represented by Senior Counsel Robert Pang Yiu-hung, barrister Steven Kwan, and Marc Corlett, a New Zealand Queen’s Counsel with a Hong Kong practice license.

11:51 Case Adjourned to Tuesday for Further Hearing

Johnny Ho completed his testimony. The case is adjourned until Tuesday afternoon (14th) for further hearing, during which both the prosecution and defense are expected to present their arguments regarding the request to re-summon Cheung Kim-hung.

10:45 Defense Claims Jimmy Lai’s Daughter Notified of Slack Records in February

The prosecution questioned whether Jimmy Lai’s legal team was familiar with the witness statements and whether they had ample opportunity to investigate the Slack records. Johnny Ho responded, “I might slightly disagree with that,” noting they only became aware of Slack during the defense’s cross-examination of Cheung Kim-hung on January 29. Ho continued, stating that the following day, they reached out to the prosecution to see if they had any records of Slack. On February 1, the prosecution replied they had no such records. “It was then we started to look into finding the Slack records, which we only obtained on February 26,” he added.

Judge Alex Lee inquired if it was the defense that brought up Slack, not Cheung Kim-hung. Johnny Ho responded, “My understanding is that it was Cheung,” but senior defense barrister Robert Pang Yiu-hung clarified that he was the one who mentioned “Slack.” Judge Lee referred to a previous session on the 11th day of the trial, where Cheung Kim-hung mentioned, “Mr. Lai assigned me to make key records, instructing me to follow up, which is roughly the procedure for the lunchbox meetings.” The defense stated that the witness referred to “key records,” not “meeting records.”

Judge Lee asked if Ho knew at the time that these were key records of the “lunchbox meetings.” Ho responded, “The exact terms weren’t clear, whether it was meeting minutes, or attendee notes.” He added that after the prosecution confirmed the absence of Slack records on February 1, the defense began their investigation, eventually acquiring the records. “The process was not easy,” he remarked.

Judge Lee then asked if the legal team had found the Slack records earlier if they had investigated sooner. Ho agreed, “I agree, but we really didn’t know until January 29, after Cheung spoke, that he was making summaries in Slack.”

The prosecution queried why the defense didn’t discuss the “lunchbox meetings” content with Lai. Ho explained, “I think what we discussed with the client is protected by LPP, but of course, we got instructions about what was discussed in the lunchbox meetings. I’m really sorry, but we only knew about this sort of Slack record and about Ivan Cheung’s points and summaries on January 29.”

Judge Lee noted that Lai’s legal team had three opportunities to investigate the Slack records: when they first received the witness statements, during the delivery of the case files, and when reviewing the prosecution’s case details. Ho agreed, “But Slack was never mentioned before.” The prosecution asked who notified him about obtaining the Slack records on February 26. Ho replied it was Lai’s daughter.

Judge Lee asked if the Slack records were related to Next Media or Apple Daily. Ho stated, “Actually, I’m not very familiar with this Slack platform; I know it’s a chat group format.” During the re-examination, the defense asked how many documents were not adopted in this case. Ho mentioned that in his 15 years as a lawyer, this case had “the most documents I’ve ever seen.”

10:30 Defense Lawyer: Cheung Kim-hung First Mentioned Slack Platform Under Questioning in January

The prosecution noted that Jimmy Lai’s legal team received the prosecution’s revised opening statement on December 29, 2023. Johnny Ho agreed that at that time, the prosecution did not possess any records from the Slack work platform. Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang noted that the statements of three accomplice witnesses are crucial and relied upon by the prosecution, to which Ho responded, “Of course.” Lee further asked if it could be assumed that Ho would read the witness statements more than once? Ho agreed.

Judge Lee noted, after Ho reviewed the case files, did he notice that the prosecution lacked Slack records and official records of the “Lunchbox Meetings”? Ho agreed.

The prosecution mentioned that on January 29, 2024, during the 18th day of the trial, prosecution witness Cheung Kim-hung first mentioned Slack. Judge Lee asked if Cheung had not mentioned Slack during the prosecution’s examination? Ho stated, “I am not in court every day,” and reiterated that it was first heard on January 29 under questioning by Senior Counsel, “That was the first time I heard about Slack.”

Judge Lee asked how Slack came up during Cheung’s questioning? Ho said, “The judge has praised our transcripts as being quite good, I need to look at them again to remember.” The prosecution added that during the trial that day, the defense mentioned that before the “Lunchbox Meetings,” a group was set up on Slack. Ho stated, “Yes, it seems so, I hope our legal team can confirm this, I don’t have the transcript on hand.” Senior Counsel Robert Pang Yiu-hung agreed, noting that this was the gist of the content.

10:15 Defense Requests Re-summoning of Cheung Kim-hung, Prosecution Asks Defense Lawyer to Testify

The court dealt with the defense’s request to re-summon prosecution witness Cheung Kim-hung and called upon defense lawyer Johnny Ho to testify in this regard, revealing that some protections under Legal Professional Privilege (LPP) were waived. Johnny Ho took an oath in the Christian form and testified in Chinese, confirming he is an associate at Robertson Law Firm, served as a trainee lawyer from 2006 to 2008, and has handled criminal litigation since 2009.

Johnny Ho also confirmed that he has represented Jimmy Lai since his arrest on August 10, 2020, and is familiar with the case details. Ho mentioned reviewing numerous witness statements for the prosecution, including those of Cheung Kim-hung, Chan Pui-man, and Yeung Ching-kee. Prosecutor Anthony Chau Tin-hang asked if Lai’s legal representatives had obtained the statements of Cheung, Chan, and Yeung in early December 2021? Ho stated, “I don’t know the exact date,” but the statements were likely received in December.

The prosecution asked if Lai’s legal representatives obtained the case files on June 21, 2022, which included the statements of Cheung, Chan, and Yeung? Ho said, “I’m not clear about the exact date, but we definitely received them,” also confirming he had read Cheung’s statement. The prosecution inquired if Cheung’s statement mentioned the “Lunchbox Meetings” and Lai’s remarks there? Ho responded, “When I looked at this statement, it was a while ago. I remember it mentioned the Lunchbox Meetings, but I need to check again to see how much detail was given.”

The prosecution displayed the statements taken from Cheung on December 1 and 3, 2021, and February 17, 2022, Chan Pui-man’s statements on December 9, 2021, and November 9, 2022, and Yeung Ching-kee’s statement on July 18, 2021, with Ho confirming that some content mentioned the “Lunchbox Meetings.”

Court session commenced at 10:10.

The Witness

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